Having spent years counting calories, restricting food intake and playing mind games, I now have a pretty accessible approach to optimal health that is based on encouraging fun and abundance. I kicked the negative self talk to the curb and decided to gradually add in the foods that promote vibrant health so that the foods that promote disease would be incrementally squeezed out of my daily diet. What a wonderful mental release to no longer feel denied of food but to begin to deliberately include and experiment with foods and ingredients that would nourish my imperfect body and battered soul!
Fun in the kitchen, recipe exploration and increased well being followed, but over time one thing became apparent – I was addicted to sugar.
My education and training as a Holistic Nutritionist gave me the pure facts and scientific data about this anti-nutrient, but it has been difficult and complex journey to kick the sugar crack completely.
Excess sugar in the diet leads to obesity (especially fat around your middle, yup I’ll own it!), an increased incidence of diabetes and stroke and it is implicated as one of the causes of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.1.
You see, when sugar enters the body it is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to every cell in the body to be used as energy. The problem is that sugar appears in 74% of all processed foods 2. stocked in your grocery store and is found in large doses in some ‘healthy’ and whole foods such as carrots, bananas, grapes and watermelon, air puffed popcorn, fruit yoghurts and fruit leather.
As I tuned into my body and monitored myself throughout the day I realized I had bought a ticket on the sugar roller coaster and could not get off!
Full confession time. Here is how the roller coaster looked on the daily (raise your hand if any of this is familiar to you!)
I used to begin each day with a strong black tea or coffee to jump start the body. Caffeine induces the fight or flight response, which in turn ensured that glucose would be released into the bloodstream so that I would be able to cope with the perceived danger.This would be my first glucose shot of the day.
I then set about assembling my kids lunch boxes, where I could eat half a bag of baby carrots and a couple of handfuls of popcorn or ‘healthy’ chips in the process. Shot number two. Guilt would then set in and I would skip breakfast!
Much of the morning would be spent driving to school, working at school and running errands, whilst insulin ran around my sugared up veins to distribute glucose to each of my cells and I would curb those hypoglycaemic (sudden low blood sugar) morning munchies with a drive-through skinny latte; my go to meal replacement. The headache and shaking hands I was experiencing would be alleviated by another caffeine rush which again would cause the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Phew!
Lunch would be one of my favourite ‘lite n’ healthy’ foods, jar salsa and chips (processed) or a ready made sushi snack pack (hello sugared white rice), fish is good for you right?; and of course a piece of ‘healthy’ fruit. By 2pm I would crash and burn with zero energy, shaking hands, hot sweats and a headache. It felt like the worst anxiety attack and menopausal hot flash rolled into one. I would hit the bread and butter (my comfort food from childhood) or sugared cereal and milk and sit down with another big cup of black tea. Why did I have so little energy? Why was I always so tired?
Dinner would pass smoothly and I have always eaten quite healthily, but during the evening the munchies would rear their heads and it would be time for my secret stash of chocolate before bedtime. At 3am I would be wide awake wondering why I could not sleep when I was exhausted. The fabled tired but wired induced by low blood sugar and excess cortisol.
Life seemed so unfair. I was a girl that ate all organic and healthy. I only ate brown bread and pasta! I loved my fruit and vegetables. I never ate cakes, pastries or doughnuts. I never drank soda. I exercise three times a week and I always ate a healthy grilled meat or fish with vegetables supper. Why couldn’t I lose my baby weight from my middle? And why was I always so tired?
The first and hardest step for me has been giving up coffee, the low calorie, no food ingested vehicle of my internal glucose release. I have had to relearn to eat breakfast especially the no sugar nutrition of eggs. I have trained myself to eat healthy fat without feelings of guilt and anguish; I love you avocados and coconut oil! I now avoid sugary fruits and vegetables and instead adore my antioxidant rich berries and leafy greens. I now know the value of eating a wide range of nuts and seeds as they provide my body with the healthy fats and minerals that nurture good health, support numerous metabolic processes in the body and do not spike blood sugar levels. I always read labels to find the sugar content of every food I purchase in the store. Goodbye ‘healthy and organic’ granola, Yo-Squeeze, instant oatmeal and fruit leathers, you are banished from my grocery cart. (Sorry, but not that much kids!)
Did I mention I had given up coffee?
I am still on my journey to optimal health but I am so glad of the changes I have made. Glad that I have deviated from the path toward pre-diabetes and further on towards the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in old age.
The middle years are a wonderful time to make changes and relearn habits that will gift you a long and active life. Get in touch all you regular as clockwork, 2pm diet coke gals, and we and make those changes together.
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